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Learn English > English lessons and exercises > English test #107557: Article and use of A/An
Article and use of A/An
1) THE FUNDAMENTALS : 'a' is generally used in front of a consonant and 'an' in front of a vowel, BUT the use of 'an' depends on the pronunciation of the word and not on the writing of the word: ( a year is considered as if it began with a consonant)
* In front of the sound [ju] ( it's 'a vowel-sound'! => a University, a ewe (a female sheep), a universal feeling, a one-way street,
but : an eye, an ear, an RAF pilot (a pilot in the Royal Air Force), an MP (Member of Parliament)...
* Most Hs are pronounced and require 'a' except for : an heir (an heir to the throne), an hour, an honour, honest (and the words coming from them... )
A house ( the h is pronounced) ; an hour (the h is not-pronounced)
ex : 'Brutus is an honourable man !'
** the plural of a /an = 0 (no article)
ex : I have a cat, but you have dogs !
2) Important usages: in front of all singular attributes and apposition nouns, and especially :
- In front of jobs and professions :
ex : Her father, a famous reporter, was taken as a hostage for a year.
ex : My brother is a famous Doctor in a huge hospital.
- Behind prepositions : as/ without/ with...+ countable nouns:
ex : I could really do with a glass of hot milk !
ex : He's more famous as a painter than as a sculptor !
- In expressions of frequency, and speed= for every
Twice a day , 10€ an hour, 80 miles an hour .... An apple a day keeps the doctor away ...
- After quite (totally) et rather:
ex : It's quite a remarkable portrait.
- In exclamative clauses after what and such + uncountable nouns:
ex : It's such a beautiful Xmas tree !
ex : What a fat Santa Claus ! He'll never squeeze through the chimneys ...
! After the adjective in constructions introduced by 'So', 'too', 'as', in formal speech, a ou an is placed between the adjective and the noun...
ex : It's so interesting a book = It's such an interesting book!
ex : This is too difficult an exercise... I can't do it ! = It's such a difficult exercice
- What about 'half'?
'half an hour', but 'one and a half hours', and 'an hour and a half'; ('a half hour' = in the USA)
BEWARE ! The 'indefinite article' must be OMITTED when preceding (almost ) all abstract nouns:
ex: Such love, so immediate and unconditional for her unknown child was quite moving!
ex: On our way to my family's, we met horrible weather, stormy, cold and even snowy !
ex : What poverty ! What extreme destitution ! It's a heart-renting situation, but we don't know what to do to soothe such misery!
- In idioms :
A headache, a sore throat, a clear/guilty conscience;
A sense of humour (The British one, of course! ); She has a weak heart; to make a noise.
In the following idioms, 'a' is used in front of des uncountables : What a pity!; What a shame!
Such a fuss !(Such ado !); Such a relief !; Such a hurry ! (Such a haste!).
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